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Speech by Glenis Willmott to Labour Party Annual Conference

Glenis Willmott MEP, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, in a speech to Labour Party Annual Conference, said:

Conference, it’s hard to believe it’s less than five months since the general election.

I can’t remember an experience in all my years in politics that left me more devastated, than when the results rolled in on that dreadful night.

I was devastated for all our activists and Labour party staff who worked so hard, knocking on doors, through wind, rain and shine.

I was devastated for my good friend Ed Miliband, who I was proud to have worked with as leader of our party.

And I was devastated for those people up and down the country who now face five years of an uncaring and vindictive Tory government.

If they needed a Labour victory at the beginning of May they certainly need a strong Labour party today.

We all have a responsibility, a responsibility to hold this government to account, and to fight for the young people of Britain who face an uncertain employment future.

A responsibility to represent those families forced to rely on hand-outs from food-banks, whilst welfare for the poorest, continues to be cut and stigmatised.

And a responsibility to protect working rights under threat from a government eager to strip back our hard won gains of the past decades.

Conference, there’s another reason why we must all pull together under our new leader Jeremy Corbyn. This country is now facing the biggest political decision of a generation.

And let me be clear. The biggest threat currently facing our country is the possibility of a vote to leave the EU. The decisions we make now will determine whether or not our children face a future of solidarity, fairness and prosperity or one of deep uncertainty and cold isolation.

I've no doubt that this party must play a part in convincing the British people that we must remain in the European Union. And that risking a future on the fringes ... would be a backward step from which Britain may never recover.

I've heard some within our movement say the left should now campaign for Britain to quit the EU! That we should be fighting the EU elite, really?

Conference there is an elite that threatens the wellbeing of British working people.

But it lies much closer to home. The elite is alive and well, and living in Downing Street.

Just, imagine the scene a day after the referendum if Britain votes to leave.

Try and look past, the image of Nigel Farage’s smug face across every news bulletin up and down the country. Pint in one hand, waving the vees with the other!

Yes, he will have been crowned the undisputed winner of the referendum. But the biggest winners will be all those Tories, who for years have been determined to turn this country into a neo-liberal, tax-free, wonderland. Just look at how this government has launched an all-out assault on trade unions over the past few weeks.

Think what it would be like if we didn’t have the protections that the EU provides.

Imagine what they could get away with. Imagine what a trade deal between the UK and the US would look like if it were negotiated by David Cameron alone?

There would be none of the protections on public services and the environment that Labour MEPs are currently fighting hard to secure.

Yes, Europe needs to change but that change can only come from within.

No one can tell me that Britain will be a more progressive society if we leave.

Would being outside the EU give us more rights at work? More freedom? More equality?

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